• Alex Rathbun

Ultimate guide to Chicago's north side coffee shops

If you've followed me for long, you know I love a good coffee shop. The most common reason I hang out at a coffee shop is to get work done, but I also like a good Saturday afternoon coffee date with a friend or my husband. So, after living on Chicago's north side for 5+ years, I've found a few favorites, some that rate well in one category but not all, and some that just have bad coffee (so they didn't make the list) and with that, I've put together an ultimate guide to Chicago's north side coffee shops.


Aside from good coffee*, I rate coffee shops on 3 criteria:

  1. Seating - is it usually crowded? Are the seats comfortable and inviting? Are there a variety of options like tables, armchairs, and benches?

  2. Overall coziness - is there good lighting? are the baristas friendly? is it a welcoming atmosphere?

  3. Workability - is it overly busy and full? is the music too loud? what's the wifi situation? will I feel judged for staying too long?

*To give you a gauge, I'm maybe like a second class coffee snob. I usually stick to third wave coffee but as long as it's decent, I'm happy.


I hope you enjoy my guide!



ALBANY PARK


1. Nighthawk Chicago

Unexpectedly located right next to the Kimball brown line station, this coffee shop/bar combo is open most hours of the day. It's fairly dimly lit but is a cozy, quiet place to work or chat.

Seating: ★★★★

Coziness: ★★

Workability: ★★★★


2. Surge Coffee Bar & Billiards

Here's another coffee/bar/cafe combo, housing the most pool tables I've ever seen in the back area, this new place has decent coffee and lots of seating options including a summer patio, but is pretty big and open so it is lacking on the cozy factor in my opinion. Also, the times I've been here during the day, it's felt too quiet, so I feel awkward working here.

Seating: ★★★★

Coziness: ★★

Workability: ★★


LINCOLN SQUARE


3. Beans & Bagels

A Rockwell/Lincoln Square neighborhood staple, this place is extremely charming and cozy. The food is pretty pricey, but delicious. The seating is a separate room from where you order your coffee, allowing for an ideal working or chatting atmosphere. The seats do tend to fill up quickly, though, and also note that it closes daily at 2pm. Bonus insider tip: there is a bathroom in the back.

Seating: ★★★

Coziness: ★★★★★

Workability: ★★★★


4. Groundswell Coffee Roasters (on Lincoln)

This great spot, slightly off the beaten path, has good coffee and is rarely crowded. The baristas are friendly, but sometimes it feels too dark and too quiet to me to be an ideal spot to spend an afternoon.

Seating: ★★★★★

Coziness: ★★★★

Workability: ★★★★


5. Oromo Cafe

One of my regular stops, Oromo is usually pretty quiet and there's almost always a spot to sit down. There are lots of GF and Paleo snack options as well as homemade nut milks that are pretty pricey. I do think it's lacking on the cozy vibe, as it's a little too dark for my preference.

Seating: ★★★★

Coziness: ★★★

Workability: ★★★★★


6. The Grind Cafe

Another Lincoln Square classic, the grind is extremely quaint with a rustic, artsy vibe and really great coffee and food. The biggest reason I find myself not going, however, is that it's very small and there's often no available seating. This is better in the summer when the back patio is open, though! Give the lavender latte a try here.

Seating: ★★

Coziness: ★★★★★

Workability: ★★★★


7. Groundswell Coffee Roasters (on Damen)

This is one of my go-to working spots. During the week, there's ample seating among the simple, modern decor, friendly baristas and lots of natural light. However, it does fill up quickly on the weekends. Also if you need a quick meal, their breakfast wrap is $4.95 and so delicious.

Seating: ★★★★

Coziness: ★★★★★

Workability: ★★★★★


ANDERSONVILLE


8. The Coffee Studio

I always recommend this place to Chicago newbies. It's further north than the rest of Andersonville, is extremely cozy with lots windows and varied seating options, and has great coffee, food, and alcohol. I think it's an ideal place to hang with a friend. The one downside is that they give out cards for their wifi that expires every 90 minutes, so it's not an ideal working spot IMO.

Seating: ★★★★

Coziness: ★★★★★

Workability: ★★★★★


9. Colectivo Coffee (on Clark)

This may be my favorite place on this guide. It's another go-to for getting work done, but also a great spot for a coffee date. Though it's usually fairly busy, there are always available rustic, cozy wood seating options, many of which are nestled into little nooks around the cafe. The baked goods are top notch and they always have decaf on drip (I know, I'm weird).

Seating: ★★★★★

Coziness: ★★★★★

Workability: ★★★★★


10. La Colombe Coffee Roasters (on Clark)

This place has great coffee, especially if you like cold brew or iced lattes, which are always on tap. There's tons of natural light and an interesting set up. Sadly, there's often no available seats though, and I think the small, hard stools and tinier tables are less than ideal for working at, but totally great for a quick stop.

Seating: ★★★

Coziness: ★★★★

Workability: ★★★


EDGEWATER


11. Metropolis Coffee Company (on Granville)

When I first moved to Chicago, a new friend recommended this place to me. There's lots of space to work, the coffee is great (their coffee is served in a lot of restaurants/coffee shops around the city), and it's usually an ideal noise level to get work done.

Seating: ★★★★★

Coziness: ★★★

Workability: ★★★★★


UPTOWN


12. Heritage Outpost (on Lawrence)

If you've never been here, you must go! It's located inside the most beautiful apartment building with tons of seating inside the stunning lobby. Though leaning slightly further into the coffee snob vibe than I'd prefer, the coffee is tasty, the workers are kind and there's always tons of seating. What it lacks in coziness, it makes up for in interesting, unique, pretty decor.

Seating: ★★★★★

Coziness: ★★★

Workability: ★★★★★


13. Heritage Outpost (on Wilson)

Equal in quality and friendliness to the Lawrence location, this place has a major hipster vibe in a smaller, more quaint space, though also located in an apartment building lobby. It's small, but I've never had a problem finding seating. Also, you need to try their goat milk caramel latte (it's worth it's high price).

Seating: ★★★★

Coziness: ★★★★★

Workability: ★★★★★


14. Everybody's Coffee

One of the friendliest places you could end up, this place has got tons of seats. Because it's huge, it's not the most cozy, but is a fun, delicious adventure, featuring Baker Miller's amazing baked goods.

Seating: ★★★★★

Coziness: ★★★

Workability: ★★★★


NORTH CENTER


15. Spoken Cafe

I always feel like I'm in a small town when I step into this rustic, sweet little spot. It's always bustling with families and friendly faces. There's not much seating, but it is perfect for a leisurely morning, located right off the Montrose brown line stop. It does, however, close at 3pm every day.

Seating: ★★

Coziness: ★★★★★

Workability: ★


16. Coffee Joint

The coffee is the best part of this place, which is why it made my list, but It's fairly small with uncomfortable seating. I'd go for a swanky espresso drink and a healthy snack.

Seating: ★★★

Coziness: ★★

Workability: ★★★★


AVONDALE


17. Brew Brew Coffee & Tea

Another unexpected location, this little neighborhood gem is cozy, quaint, and friendly with comfy seating. One downside is there's no AC in the summer, which makes it harder to work at IMO.

Seating: ★★★★

Coziness: ★★★★★

Workability: ★★★


LOGAN SQUARE


18. Passion House Coffee Roasters

This place is way hipster, but the baristas are always friendly and there's plenty of seating options, plus healthy snacks.

Seating: ★★★★

Coziness: ★★★

Workability: ★★★★★


19. Gaslight Coffee Roasters

Though kind of dark inside, this little corner spot has a great food menu, plenty of seating, and friendly folks serving you.

Seating: ★★★★★

Coziness: ★★★

Workability: ★★★★★


20. Coletivo Coffee (on Milwaukee)

This place has fun, bright decor, which is a nice change for a coffee shop. I just feel cool when I go to work here, ya know? There's lots of seating and great baked goods and coffee. Plus there's an outdoor fire pit you can sit at!

Seating: ★★★★★

Coziness: ★★★

Workability: ★★★★★


LAKEVIEW


21. Stumptown, inside Amazon Books

One of my favorite spots in the city. Wander around Amazon books and skim through every trendy book you've heard of from the cool people in your life, then stop for some coffee in the built-in coffee shop. It's modern with lots of light and really great coffee, plus they have an 8oz drink option if you're like me and sometimes just want a taste.

Seating: ★★★★★

Coziness: ★★★★

Workability: ★★★★

22. Foxtrot Market

This high-end local grocery chain meets creative gift shop meets open, airy coffee shop is a fun stop. It's a great place to grab a snack with a side of espresso. There are lots of seating options and even more windows, though for some reason, in my experience, the workers aren't super friendly.

Seating: ★★★★★

Coziness: ★★★

Workability: ★★★★★


23. Allegro Coffee Roasters (inside Whole Foods)

Another great coffee shop within a store, this place takes "lots of windows and seating" to a whole new level. There's no shortage of bougie families and kids wandering around, which could be distracting if you're getting work done, but I personally love the busy vibe. Bonus, this is one of the few places I've found that serves bulletproof coffee!

Seating: ★★★★★

Coziness: ★★★

Workability: ★★★


24. Heritage Bicycles

If you're looking to experience the true Chicago hipster, go sit in this place for 20 minutes and observe. But it's all for good reason - Heritage has amazing coffee in a cool, artsy, bright setting. There's is pretty great seating available, too, since they've opened a second seating room. One downside is that you may feel uncomfortable if you don't fit the look of this place, in my experience.

Seating: ★★★★★

Coziness: ★★★★

Workability: ★★★


25. Osmium

Hipster meets grungy rebel in this coffee shop. Tasting the coffee truly is a magical experience and the decor is unique. It's the opposite of the open, airy, natural look that most cafes chose. It's often pretty crowded, but the picnic-bench-filled patio in the summer helps with this. I recommend an iced latte. Seriously please try it, you'll thank me.

Seating: ★★★

Coziness: ★★★★

Workability: ★★★★


26. Intelligentsia Coffee (on Broadway)

Intelligentsia is just one of those Chicago experiences you should try. It takes "high-end coffee" to a new level. It feels fancy yet hipster and there are lots of seats available in this location. Unfortunately the baristas do not seem to be very friendly here, though, and it's a little dark.

Seating: ★★★★★

Coziness: ★★

Workability: ★★★★★


WICKER PARK


27. Ipsento 606

This place, conveniently located next to the super cool 606 trail, is sleek, modern and slightly weird, with homemade mini donuts. The coffee is amazing and the baristas are very nice. The only downside is that it can fill up quickly and be pretty crowded.

Seating: ★★★

Coziness: ★★★★

Workability: ★★★


28. Wormhole

An experience. True hipster weirdness abounds here. Personally, I think it atmosphere is a little overrated - it's very dark and feels like a strange place to work. But the coffee is great and stopping in makes for a fun afternoon adventure.

Seating: ★★★

Coziness: ★★

Workability: ★★★


LINCOLN PARK


29. Colectivo Coffee (on Clark)

Similar to the Logan Square location, this place has lots of colorful decor and great snacks and coffee. But what stands out most is the giant, playfully-designed patio which includes a fire pit. Go Google map it to look at some pictures!

Seating: ★★★★

Coziness: ★★★★

Workability: ★★★★


30. La Colombe Coffee Roasters (on Armitage)

Really great for a high-quality quick stop while wandering through Lincoln Park, but there's not much seating in this busy coffee shop and there are even fewer snack options. However, the sparkling water on tap is a nice touch. Like the other locations, try their draft iced latte or cold brew.

Seating: ★★

Coziness: ★★★★

Workability: ★




Brightly Alex